Ever try shaving dry? The trauma to the skin is real—itchy, burning, and bumpy. If you choose to shave your body or face, a shave cream is a must to protect your skin from irritation. As the razor goes across the top layer of skin, a shave cream softens the hair and the follicles that cradle them. You can create a formula at home with kitchen staples that's rich in emollients to keep skin soft when you shave. Ahead, a spa expert and soap formulators provide tips for making a DIY shave cream from items in your pantry.
Meet the Expert
- Donagh Quigley, founder of The Handmade Soap Company, is a soap formulator who started in his kitchen in 2010. He owns the company with his wife, Gemma, in Ireland.
- Luisa Cruz is the cofounder of The Body Note, an all Latina woman, handmade artisan soap-making company.
- Sara Trabazini is the spa manager at the award-winning The Spa at Monteverdi in Tuscany.
When it comes to shave cream, Quigley says, "For a shaving soap, glide or ease of movement across the skin is much more important than a big lather." In other words, the key to a protective shave cream is in the formula's slipperiness, allowing the razor to remove hair from the follicles with as much lubrication as possible. This will prevent skin irritation, including razor bumps and scaly, dry skin associated with shaving.
Quigley's secret ingredient to combat ingrown hairs is a powerful antioxidant tea called yarrow root, or Achillea millefolium. The root gets its Greek name from the ancient war hero, Achilles, who used yarrow to treat his soldiers' wounds (so the story goes). According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, yarrow root may increase the production of fibroblasts, which allow connective tissue to regenerate and calm inflammation. Do note that when ingested, yarrow root tea has been linked with miscarriage, so if you're pregnant, avoid use or consult your physician.
Quigley's is a bar-based formula that you use as a shaving soap. He says, "This is a super-fatted soap recipe, meaning that there are leftover vegetable oils in the soap after the reaction is finished." The result: a "wonderfully moisturizing formula."
DIY Bar Shaving Soap
Below, find Quigley's recipe.
- 12 ounces yarrow tea
- 4.5 ounces lye
- 12 ounces hydrogenated soybean cottonseed shortening
- 12 ounces coconut oil
- 4 ounces sustainable palm oil
- 4 ounces olive oil
- 1 ounce essential oils (try a blend of 21 grams lemon and 7 grams tea tree essential oils)
- 1 ounce bentonite clay
- Brew a strong batch of yarrow tea in a pot. Wear heavy duty gloves and protective glasses to pour the lye very slowly into the tea. Check temperature and wait until 110 degrees Fahrenheit. Speed up the process by cooling the pot in an ice bath.
- When the lye mixture is at around 110 degrees Fahrenheit, start melting all of your vegetable oils together on a fairly low heat.
- When both pots are around 97 degrees Fahrenheit (they just need to be close, not exact) pour the lye mixture into the oils. Make sure to be wearing your safety gear and always pour lye into oils, never the other way around. Please note lye is extremely dangerous on skin and hazardous to eyes. "If it does get on your skin or in eyes, use vinegar to neutralize, not water," says Quigley.
- Mix the combined ingredients with a stick blender until the mixture is thick. "This is a stage called 'trace,'" explains Quigley.
- Add the essential oils and the bentonite clay and stir thoroughly.
- Pour the mixture into the empty ice cream containers.
- After three days, remove from the containers and leave somewhere warm and dry for two weeks before use. It's important to let the soap bars dry out and harden before using. Once cured, the soap can be cut into slices that fit "nicely in your hands." Quigley says a preservative is not necessary, although be sure to store in a cool, dry place.
One note: Lye, or sodium hydroxide, is a chemical made from salt and necessary for the hardening of the soap—when it's combined with vegetable oils, a chemical reaction occurs which breaks down the fats or oils into fatty acid chains. Then, when heat is applied, the water molecules in the bar are evaporated, and the saponification process begins (more on that to come). Cruz prefers lye in the form of flakes. "They're chunkier than the liquid, and the soap always comes out a little better."
Take note: Lye is very caustic until it evaporates completely from the soap and should be handled with caution—be sure to wear gloves and a mask throughout the process.
This 100 percent, pure bentonite clay has been mined in the USA and contains no other added ingredients or additives. Besides the above soap recipe, you can mix bentonite clay with a bit of apple cider vinegar or water to make a purifying face mask.
This organic yarrow tea is housed in bleach-free bags and also contains no added colors, scents, or preservatives. To brew, steep in 205 degree water and wait five minutes.
DIY Olive Oil Shave Cream
Skincare expert Sara Trabazini provides a liquid DIY shave cream formula that uses rich essential oils and olive oil soap shavings: "This homemade shave soap is specifically suggested for a non-aggressive shave and perfect for nourishing and soothing the skin through olive oil and lavender," she says. It's an ideal formula for sensitive or dry skin, with Mediterranean-sourced ingredients.
Below, find Trabazini's recipe from The Spa at Monteverdi Tuscany.
- 50 to 60 grams or 2 ounces olive oil soap bar (Aleppo soap bar, $20, is a good substitute)
- 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 8 drops lavender essential oil
Add two drops of facial oil to your DIY shave cream for extra dry or mature skin.
- Grate the soap bar and fold in olive oil. Mix the ingredients well until you get a homogeneous mixture. Add water as necessary if needed.
- Blend in drops of lavender essential oil.
According to Trabazini, the shave cream is ready to use. No preservative is necessary, though store the product in a glass jar. The lavender essential oil can be swapped for another scented oil of your choice. We love eucalyptus for an uplifting vibe or citrus to energize. And if you're not down scented products, simply leave it out.
After shaving, try a DIY chamomile wrap to soothe skin. To make, Trabazini says, "apply a gauze soaked in cold chamomile infusion on the skin."
Lodén M. Role of topical emollients and moisturizers in the treatment of dry skin barrier disorders. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003;4(11):771-788.
Pirbalouti AG, Koohpayeh A, Karimi I. The wound healing activity of flower extracts of Punica granatum and Achillea kellalensis in Wistar rats. Acta Pol Pharm. 2010;67(1):107-110.
Boswell-Ruys CL, Ritchie HE, Brown-Woodman PD. Preliminary screening study of reproductive outcomes after exposure to yarrow in the pregnant rat. Birth Defects Res B Dev Reprod Toxicol. 2003;68(5):416-420.